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Religious Discrimination In Jury Selection

By Dr. Don Boys
©1997 Cornerstone Communications

A jury of twelve "tried and true" citizens is the "fourth" branch of government, more powerful than the Executive, the Judicial or the Legislative! The jury is the last bulwark against governmental tyranny. When ordinary citizens fear their government, that is tyranny; but when government fears the people, that is liberty.

A juror in a criminal trial has the right and obligation to disregard a judge's instructions to "decide only the facts in a case rather than the law." As a previous column proved, there is ample legal and historical precedence for jury nullification: a juror, standing alone, saying, "Although the evidence is clear that the defendant did break the law, in the interest of justice, I declare him not guilty." That will result in a hung jury, and often the defendant will go free.

You and eleven other jurors are the judge in a criminal trial. The government official usually known as "the judge" is only a headmaster or referee in charge of procedure. The jury acts as the spokesman for the community's conscience and is obligated to disregard oppressive, unjust laws.

Most judges and lawyers don't want independent, principled people on a jury. They prefer non-readers, non-thinkers and non-religious people whom they can manipulate to deliver a favorable verdict – not to require justice.

Recently the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a prospective juror can not be excluded because of gender. The august Court said that "potential jurors as well as litigants, have an equal protection right to jury selection procedures that are free from state-sponsored group stereotypes rooted in, and reflective of, historical prejudice." All right, so now a person can not be rejected from jury duty because he is a he or she is a she, but he (or she) can be rejected because he or she is an active Christian! That is the real world of "justice," and it's time Christians threw a "controlled fit" about the unfairness. Do I need to remind anyone that we Christians have not surrendered our First Amendment rights simply because we are Christians?

A Dallas judge recently threw a prospective female juror in jail for refusing to answer questions about her religious beliefs and her favorite books and television programs. Judge Sam Houston arrogantly sentenced Mrs. Dianna Brandborg to jail for thirty days for contempt of court when he was the one in contempt of court and in contempt of common sense! He also fined her $100.00, which I would have refused to pay. She was released after serving only thirty minutes of her sentence. It was none of the judge's business what books she read, what television shows she watched or what her religious beliefs were. The judge only needed to know whether or not she would make a fair, competent juror.

Active Christians are summarily dismissed from jury duty because of their religious beliefs and they should face the courts with that discrimination. Of course the average judge will consider that an attack upon his authority and will most likely counter-attack with a petty contempt of court charge. Many judges get angry, agitated and asinine when an ordinary citizen (who helps pay his generous salary) suggests that the judge is not omnipotent.

Can you imagine the furor if Jews and Roman Catholics were summarily dismissed from jury duty because of their religion? But it seems acceptable to dismiss active Christians. It happens because we have been uninformed, unchallenged and unmotivated to question the decisions of judges!

While a court has the right to know where I stand on capital punishment in a murder trial, it has no right to know my religious beliefs – nor to refuse me jury duty because of those beliefs. Any judge who permits Christians to be dismissed from a jury because they are Christians is guilty of jury tampering!

I suggest that active Christians register to vote, because most states get their jurors from voter registration lists, then serve as jurors whenever it is possible. If, during jury selection the court asks questions that deal with a potential juror's religious beliefs, the Christian should not answer but charge the court with discrimination! That will take character, courage and commitment. It also may mean slammer time! If that happens, then the county should be sued and the judge plus all those responsible for one's incarceration.

A Christian should sue the county if he or she is not permitted to serve as a juror even if the judge does not throw him in the poky. After all, discrimination is illegal, isn't it? Or, maybe Christians are fair game. Why not ask the judge next time you are called for jury duty if Christians are second class citizens. Demand to be treated like everyone else. (But keep a toothbrush handy.)

Copyright 1997, Don Boys.

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